Positive economic indicators fuel optimism for Sussex?County’s real estate market

Year-end sales data recently released by the Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) revealed several positive economic indicators as the county, the state and the nation continue to emerge from a years-long recession.

“While not what we were accustomed to a few years ago, we think the data compiled by our organization shows a continuing upward trend in southern Delaware’s real estate markets,” said Trina Joyner, 2012 president of SCAOR. “We realize that can sometimes be hard to see if you bought your home in the last few years and have weathered the downturn in the economy, but things are definitely improving. Our numbers certainly bear that out.”

More than 2,600 single-family homes sold in Sussex County in the last calendar year, totaling nearly $800 million. The average home in Delaware’s southernmost county sold for an average sales price of $301,000 in 2011, while sales as a whole were up about 4 percent over 2010.

Taking into account all real estate transactions in Sussex County – including commercial properties, condominiums, townhouses and mobile homes, as well as single-family homes – nearly $1 billion changed hands in 2011. That represents a 4 percent increase over the previous year, though the average sales price per transaction did decline over the same period.

The recently released data showed a continuing uptick, though not dramatic, for real estate sales in the southernmost reaches of the First State. Taking into account the period between 2009 and 2011, sales volume has increased by 14 percent in the last three calendar years.

“We think we have definitely weathered the worst of the economic downturn and are in a good position to benefit from the historic buying opportunity that now exists in our area,” said Joyner. “With interest rates at never-before-seen levels and an abundance of homes on the market, there may never be a better time to purchase a home than the next 12 to 24 months.”

Member Realtors of SCAOR are also reporting more and more interest in the area’s real estate markets, as potential buyers have begun looking at neighborhoods from the Atlantic coastline all the way inland to the westernmost areas of the county.

The news isn’t all good, however, though even the “bad news” is much better than most of the United States over the last few years. Since 2009, the average sales price for a single-family home in Sussex County has declined 7 percent.

No decline is something that homeowners want to see, but a 7 percent decrease is much better than has been experienced in the United States as a whole in the last three calendar years. Since the peak of the real estate market in 2006-2007, single-family home values have dropped nearly 30 percent countrywide, as the recession took hold on the nation’s economy.

Southern Delaware has certainly fared better, as the appeal of low taxes and coastal living continue to attract new residents to the area, especially retirees looking to stretch their retirement dollars as much as possible in their golden years, Joyner said.

“As long as we keep our taxes low and we have that big body of water to our east, Sussex County will continue to be attractive from a buyer’s perspective,” said Joyner. “The latter is certainly never going to change, and we hope the former won’t either. Southern Delaware is a great place to live and work, and we have no doubt that it will always be that way.”

One last piece of good news – according to the United States Census Bureau, Delaware continues to rank in the top five nationally in homeownership, with a homeownership rate of 72.1 percent, and with homes holding a median value of just less than $300,000.

To read more about issues related to Sussex County’s real estate industry, visit SCAOR’s Web site at www.scaor.com.